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Can the FAA Be Trusted to Fix Air Traffic Control?
Investors.com ^ | May 17, 2011 | JOHN MERLINE

Posted on 05/17/2011 6:05:45 PM PDT by Kaslin

Five years ago, a Comair flight taxied onto the wrong runway at the airport in Lexington, Ky., and crashed on takeoff, killing 49 of the 50 people aboard. It turned out that the lone air controller on duty who should have caught the mistake was operating on two hours of sleep. Two years before that, a tired controller nearly let two commercial jets collide on an LAX runway.

Now, in the wake of a raft of air traffic controllers caught sleeping on the job, the Federal Aviation Administration issued new rules to combat fatigue. But this problem has dogged the FAA for years.

Fatigue is just one piece of a long history of FAA management problems with the air traffic control (ATC) system, according to an IBD review of government reports and audits and various news accounts. Just last week, the Transportation Department's inspector general announced two audits focusing on air traffic controller mistakes.

To some, this record calls into question whether the FAA can be trusted to fix the problems plaguing the ATC.

Reason Foundation transportation expert Robert Poole, for example, argues that the FAA's problems stem from its dual role as operator and regulator of air traffic control, which he says "creates a potential conflict of interest."

FAA head Randy Babbitt said recently that "employees at the FAA work diligently every day to run the safest air transportation system in the world." And an FAA spokesman told IBD that while the Air Traffic Organization is part of the FAA, "it's regulated by another group that is independent of the ATO's chain of command."

(Excerpt) Read more at investors.com ...


TOPICS: Government; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: airtrafficcontrol; atc; controller; dod; faa; tower

1 posted on 05/17/2011 6:05:47 PM PDT by Kaslin
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To: Kaslin

It’s better than all the rest but its decline can be traced to the time it was placed under the DOT.


2 posted on 05/17/2011 6:16:53 PM PDT by saganite (What happens to taglines? Is there a termination date?)
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To: Kaslin
Can the FAA Be Trusted to Fix Air Traffic Control?

About as much as you want to trust the Department of Education to teach your kids sufficiently to compete in the world.

3 posted on 05/17/2011 6:17:33 PM PDT by kbennkc (For those who have fought for it, freedom has a flavor the protected will never know.)
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To: Kaslin

About as well as government agencies setup traffic lights.


4 posted on 05/17/2011 6:24:13 PM PDT by GingisK
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To: saganite

How did air traffic control decline when it was placed under the DOT?


5 posted on 05/17/2011 6:33:12 PM PDT by CFIIIMEIATP737
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To: Kaslin

Q: Can the FAA Be Trusted to Fix Air Traffic Control?
A: F=Federal
Therefore, NO.


6 posted on 05/17/2011 6:33:53 PM PDT by elpinta (John 17:3)
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To: Kaslin

You can’t trust the government to “fix” anything.


7 posted on 05/17/2011 6:36:09 PM PDT by alice_in_bubbaland (DeMint/Ryan 2012!!!!!)
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To: Kaslin

Can the FAA Be Trusted to Fix Air Traffic Control?

Can the Obama-butt be trusted to provide an real birth certificate?

Is Nancy Pelosi really a female?

Did Jimmy Carter ever have a brain?

Did Bill Clinton “never have sex with that woman?


8 posted on 05/17/2011 6:37:49 PM PDT by Da Coyote
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To: Kaslin

The only thing I can trust the federal government to fix, is to fix it so that they are more in control.


9 posted on 05/17/2011 6:42:23 PM PDT by C210N (0bama, Making the US safe for Global Marxism)
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To: Kaslin

What would you do instead? Have a Czar work with a blue ribbon congressional committee that reports directly to the WH?


10 posted on 05/17/2011 6:42:56 PM PDT by ThomasThomas (I am still looking for that box I am supposed to think out of.)
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To: saganite
It’s better than all the rest but its decline can be traced to the time it was placed under the DOT.

Yep. The politicians wanted to spend the money the FAA controlled but couldn't until they put it under DOT.

Since then it has been all downhill and politics rules over safety and innovation.

11 posted on 05/17/2011 6:44:18 PM PDT by OldMissileer (Atlas, Titan, Minuteman, PK. Winners of the Cold War)
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To: Kaslin


Now ... that being said ...
The answer is a very loud "NO!!!";
At least as long as the Union is involved.
The USAF has the best training policies, and management for ATC.

If it was up to me, it would be turned over to the Department of Defense (DoD).
Privatization of ATC might work if you got the government to take the insurance liability.

12 posted on 05/17/2011 6:59:42 PM PDT by Yosemitest (It's simple, fight or die.)
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To: Yosemitest

Excellent expertise post


13 posted on 05/17/2011 7:03:09 PM PDT by Kaslin (Acronym for OBAMA: One Big Ass Mistake America)
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To: Kaslin

No! The FAA is being run by non-pilots and non-aviation morons.


14 posted on 05/17/2011 7:06:39 PM PDT by CodeToad (Islam needs to be banned in the US and treated as a criminal enterprise.)
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To: Yosemitest

This man speaks the truth. USAF controllers were the best.

(Admitted prejudice from a USAF instructor and test guy)


15 posted on 05/17/2011 7:09:24 PM PDT by Da Coyote
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To: Yosemitest

This man speaks the truth. USAF controllers were the best.

(Admitted prejudice from a USAF instructor and test guy)


16 posted on 05/17/2011 7:09:34 PM PDT by Da Coyote
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To: kbennkc

I wouldn’t even let them be school crossing guards. Fools would probably fall asleep after a hard weekend and all the school kids would get run over by a run away garbage truck.


17 posted on 05/17/2011 7:16:59 PM PDT by RetiredTexasVet (There's a pill for just about everything ... except stupid!)
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To: Kaslin
I'll give you an example. These second-job considerations, I believe, will be one of the contributing factors to most these problems.
18 posted on 05/17/2011 7:32:09 PM PDT by Yosemitest (It's simple, fight or die.)
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To: Kaslin
I did it for 35 years, and no, they can't fix it.

PATCO screwed it up, then FAA caught a break and had a great opportunity to fix it, but....

Pressure to rebuild quickly, exacerbated by intense EEO mandates brought about another union that management essentially turned the day-to-day operation over to.

The genie is out of the bottle, the cadre of experienced personnel that is essential to ANY operation is gone now, replaced by scared kids who duck traffic and only stay on because of massive pay and ironclad union protection.

If you fly at all, thank your lucky stars for technology like TCAS...don't fly without it.

19 posted on 05/17/2011 7:34:10 PM PDT by diogenes ghost
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To: Da Coyote
What are your thoughts on work schedules, controllers working second jobs, and controller fatigue?

I knew one FAA controller that worked 40 plus hours in his second job, every week, stocking groceries.
You know he was tired when he got to work on his mids, and on his swings.

20 posted on 05/17/2011 7:38:48 PM PDT by Yosemitest (It's simple, fight or die.)
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To: diogenes ghost
Same question:
21 posted on 05/17/2011 7:50:22 PM PDT by Yosemitest (It's simple, fight or die.)
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To: Yosemitest
"The USAF has the best training policies and management for ATC."

Oh lordy, that is truly laughable.

In the modern FAA ex USAF controllers are able to handle the upgrade to FAA Enroute; but only because of lower requirements and FAA's 'no-fail' policy.

Prior to that, they were normally inferior to new hires off the street.

My 35 years were all Enroute, starting with 13 years at Chicago Center, the busiest facility in the world, with NO computers, limited radar coverage, hand-written strips, following targets by pushing plastic chips across the screen, relying greatly on time/speed/distance calculations in your head.

The initial CAA cadre did have a lot of AF guys, only because the job was basically unknown to most. Once it got some ink, the AF numbers dropped radically.

Perhaps the AF guys do better in TRACON/Tower crossovers, but it just wasn't so in ARTCC upgrades.

22 posted on 05/17/2011 7:50:47 PM PDT by diogenes ghost
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To: diogenes ghost
I personally know five USAF controller that went from the ARTCC liaison position of tow years, directly into the FAA and then went to the centers.
All of then got out with less than ten years experience in the USAF.
One was fully rated at ZAB in 14 months.
Another checked out in ZME in 15 months.

After the USAF came to the rescue for Reagan, the hatred the FAA management and controllers have for the USAF, well you can cut it with a knife.
The FAA likes Navy controllers as hire-ees, but they despise Air Force Controllers.

23 posted on 05/17/2011 8:04:45 PM PDT by Yosemitest (It's simple, fight or die.)
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To: GingisK

What’s your gripe with traffic lights? I hate to stop at them as much as anyone, but here in the Chicago suburbs, I find it hard to fault their design and operation, which I assume is under the control of state and local government.


24 posted on 05/17/2011 8:18:05 PM PDT by dr_lew
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To: Yosemitest
For 35 years I worked a 2/2/1...two swings, two days, mid. My last few years we were allowed to modify it somewhat, so I always worked 4-12, 3-11, 1-9, 7-3 and 11-7, all 8 hour shifts. For my last 15 years or so, I was always the senior guy on a 2 person mid and never allowed sleeping. The Center had 6 areas of specialization, most of the other areas (and my area, when I wasn't on) the guys traded 3 on/3 off and slept. It's been going on for over 20 years & FAA will never be able to stop it. Now I did occasionally go bobble-headed, but NEVER slept. Wasn't paid to.

Second job? None of FAA's business how one spends his off time. For 25 years I owned an aviation market research business, it had no effect on my FAA work, except to make me more knowledgeable about aircraft.

The young kids today do seem to burn both ends of the candle, but that is a personal choice guided by their entitlement mentality and buttressed by the union. The pay is great, but damn, the quality of the people has just plummeted. I would never urge a kid I thought highly of to take this job in today's FAA.

25 posted on 05/17/2011 8:28:31 PM PDT by diogenes ghost
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To: diogenes ghost

As a retired Air Traffic Controller I tend to agree with your thinking. I left before the strike. I was an Air Force Pilot prior to going with ATC. It will be quite difficult to devise a good system even if allowed to. I am glad that is not my job..


26 posted on 05/17/2011 8:44:23 PM PDT by southland
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To: Yosemitest
"After the USAF came to the rescue for Reagan.."

What in the world are you talking about?

27 posted on 05/17/2011 8:50:31 PM PDT by diogenes ghost
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To: Yosemitest

>> rotation is hardest on the body, but a favorite ... due to the time off.

>> Did he truly have an undisturbed eight hours of rest before his Air Traffic Control Shift?

As a senior airline captain, when I taught CRM (Crew Resource Management) courses to the flight attendants at our airline some years ago, I informally surveyed the group re. adequate rest before duty. It was not uncommon for many of them to report for a 15-16 hour duty day (Pacific flight) having had 3-5 hours sleep the night before.

Sounds like a “personal responsibility” issue here. Controllers are an extremely high IQ group. Unlike airline pilots, most have nothing more than a high school diploma. They have damn good pay, no layoffs, and a great retirement for the amount of “picking sh*t with the chickens” they had to do to get there. Quit screwing around and get some sleep before your shift. Come to work prepared.

Note:
ZAB = Albuquerque Air Route Traffic Control Center
ZME = Memphis Air Route Traffic Control Center


28 posted on 05/17/2011 9:39:02 PM PDT by QBFimi (When gunpowder speaks, beasts listen.)
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To: diogenes ghost
Air traffic controllers' strike I was at Seymour Johnson AFB when they rolled in 5 Lear Jets, 2 C-141s, 3 T-39s, and a B-737 to pick up our controllers.
Most got a two hour notice to pack and return to catch a plane to destinations unknown.
A few got a 24 hour notice to leave.
Most didn't return to the USAF, and were hired by the FAA the day their contract with the USAF expired.
They just came to work the next day in civilian clothes for the FAA.
29 posted on 05/17/2011 10:18:31 PM PDT by Yosemitest (It's simple, fight or die.)
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To: QBFimi

What you say, I agree with.

"Personal Responsibility" ...you bet!
Extremely high IQ ... yes, and let it be noted that the larger facility you go to, the nastier group of cut-throats you have to put up with.
When controllers get bored, they feed on their young with excessive harassment.

Nothing more than a high school diploma... I disagree.
In the military, all branches, promotions are slow, so you "Square fill" your performance reports, and off duty education is a very important one.
Most get 64 semester hours credit, just for getting a 5-level rating
and are well on their way to a A.S. or B.S. degree, usually with Embry Riddle Aeronautical University.
They go to night school at their home base and normally finish the degree in 12 to 18 months to a B.S. level.
Some then go on to take management courses and work toward a Master's Degree in Business Management or Business Administration.
After those degrees, they've maxed out their squares on their performance reports.

Layoffs ... if they get out of the military BEFORE they retire
then the threat of not getting rated and loosing their paycheck through a "washout" ... that weighs heavily on their mind.
And returning to the military, that's normally a loss of several stripes due to being out more than one year.
Yes, the military will normally wavier their age problems, and re-enlist them.
But there's still the DoD civilian controller jobs, as well as Civilian Contract jobs.

"Quit screwing around and get some sleep before your shift.
Come to work prepared.""

I couldn't agree, more.

30 posted on 05/17/2011 10:47:37 PM PDT by Yosemitest (It's simple, fight or die.)
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To: dr_lew

Here in Atlanta they manufacture congestion out of smoothly moving traffic. They are either too long or too short. One would suppose nobody ever comes back to check on the affect those lights have on traffic. Atlanta has few roads that run either parallel or perpendicular to each other. It is a paved spider web that offers few alternative routes between any two points.


31 posted on 05/18/2011 6:55:24 AM PDT by GingisK
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To: Yosemitest
Well, I can guarantee you that NO AF controllers 'bailed Reagan out'.

I'm sure that you, as a grizzled veteran FAA controller wannabe, are aware of certification requirements for FAA controller positions.

I can GUARANTEE you that NO AF controllers worked any traffic positions at any ARTCC in the country during the strike period. I was a 13 year veteran at Chicago ARTCC when the strike occured. Counting the guys who beat the deadline, plus supes and staff who could work traffic, we had 62 controllers to handle the busiest air traffic facility in the world.....we fired 465....WITHOUT a single AF controller.

If we got 'bailed out' by anybody, it was by furloughed airline pilots. The strike came during a recession, and there were buttloads of pilots laid off. FAA offered them temporary jobs as flight data aides in the centers. Eventually there were about 100 controllers from other centers sent to Chicago on temporary duty.

Reagan's dictat to FAA was to run enough traffic to not harm the economy (or he would Federalize). The bottleneck for the country was Chicago Center....we were the busiest and got hit the hardest...we were the key to keeping the system going.

So, WHO bailed Reagan out during the strike? Nobody...he needed no bailout, he had taken a decision and was comfortable with it.

But, in your context, who bailed the Air Traffic system out? Not AF controllers working in towers....it was 62 very tired FAA controllers and some laid-off airline pilots.

32 posted on 05/18/2011 8:36:53 AM PDT by diogenes ghost
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To: diogenes ghost
AF controllers bailed Reagan out more than you can admit to yourself.


You're so wrong that it isn't even funny.
At Seymour Johnson AFB, when the planes showed up to take our controllers, our manning before the strike was about 105 counting management.
Of the roughly 80 people assigned to the Rapcon, we lost 35 that day,
and we had 10 more that left within the next two weeks from the Rapcon.
In addition to that, center delegated to the Rapcon more airspace and a corridor to Dare County Range, as well as Dare County Range.
The ceiling went from 12,000 feet to 18,000 feet, and the borders expanded another 50 miles to the north, east, and south. Then the corridor from Seymour's airspace at 15,000 to 18,000 was a 15 mile wide route to Dare County Range.
All of this on half the controller force, the Rapcon previously had.

Tower manning was 25 people, counting the office staff.
We lost 11 controllers, not trainees, mind you, but fully rated controllers.

Part of these controllers went to ZMA and some went to ZFW.
Some went to SDF. Some went to TLH.
And they didn't return for more than 6 months, and that was only to visit their wives and children,
and some relocated them to their FAA station, after their two day visit home.
Most were stationed at FAA locations that more than doubled their housing cost, and the reimbursement money was very slow from the finance office.

There were many other locations that our controllers were disbursed to, but I can't remember them, now.

After a year and three-quarters, we only got two of the controllers back, and one of those two caught an assignment to a remote overseas location (he had just reenlisted a week before the strike).

As our disbursed controllers ended their contract with the AF, we were tasked to send replacement controllers to those sites, even after our controller that timed out of the AF stayed at that FAA location, and didn't miss a day of work.
The controller just tripled his salary with the FAA pay.

Yes, the USAF rescued Ronald Reagan by keeping the airways safe and expeditious, when the FAA Union turned it's back on the United States.

33 posted on 05/18/2011 7:11:11 PM PDT by Yosemitest (It's simple, fight or die.)
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To: Yosemitest
Again, NOBODY bailed Reagan out. He took his decision knowing there were two possible outcomes, both of which he was comfortable with.

One, the system would perform well enough not to hurt the economy, or

Two, if needed, he was prepared to Federalize ATC. No fuss, no muss.

The facilities you mention were not a big worry for the FAA...it was Chicago, PATCO knew it, and exerted immense pressure on their members to go out and stay out, and they did a damned good job of that. Out of 479 members at ZAU, only 14 did not walk out, or made it back before the deadline. I was one of 8 non-members, naturally we all stayed.

The architect of FAA contingency plans was Bob Thorne - he and Helms spent a LOT of time at the center, briefing us and asking what we needed. We learned a LOT of stuff that was never given to the press, including the Federalizing option.

Many of the approach controls we worked with expanded greatly to take some pressure off us. This included altitude expansion, as well as lateral so as to butt up with other approaches, allowing what was called 'tower enroute', where aircraft could fly fairly long distances without needing to contact the center. This was all done to allow the center to concentrate more on the higher traffic, which is where the most commercial traffic was.

On Monday, we ran 3,000, Tuesday 3,300, Wednesday 3,600 (normal avg was about 7,000), and management would not let us go any higher, as they were concerned about us burning out over time - probably a good call, but it pissed us off.

Helms and Thorne made it very clear to us that due to that extremely high percentage we lost that we were THE facility that MUST hold up. They said that due to the recession and much lower percentages of strikers elsewhere that other facilities were not of concern as to keeping the system running.

We got TDY controllers from JAX, FTW, MEM, STL, MIA and ABQ centers. Boston and NY got a few, but nowhere what we did.

Again, NO AF at Chicago...it was tough enough training experienced enroute controllers from other facilities to get them checked out on two or three positions to make them usefull, ain't no way we could take the time to train a tower type from the ground up.

In conclusion....bailed out Reagan???...my ass.

34 posted on 05/18/2011 9:30:44 PM PDT by diogenes ghost
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To: diogenes ghost
I disagree! The USAF did bail our Reagan.

I respect your view from a management (non-union) position.
I appreciate the hard working controllers, and trainees that stayed with the FAA.

BUT, the USAF kept the system from collapsing.
Where did "flow control" come from? The USAF controllers implemented it.
And let's not forget the trainees that picked up the ball.
Some didn't get it. Some trainees didn't see the problem.
But those that did show some spark, got the little training they needed to complete the position.
Then they got chained to that position, until we could get back to them.
I heard how the FAA worked from some of my friend that were TDY, and at that time, they didn't have time to continue their pompous over-bloated egos.
One of our TDY members arrived at a TRACON with only the facility chief and one trainee left to man that facility.
The facility chief pointed him to the D-Brite and ask him if he had worked radar from the tower before.
He advised him of his experience doing just that at Osan AB Korea, for over two hours, when a cable was cut taking out the Rapcon.
The facility chief ask him if he could handle the local and arrival positions combined in the tower.
He said he could, and he did.
Their trainee was handling ground and flight data, with very little supervision. The facility chief took the other two USAF TDY people and went down stairs to reopen the radar facility.

Other friends told similar stories of how the rating process was no more than a few minutes, and was told to read the Ops Letters and Letters of Agreement when time allowed.

Yes, the USAF rescued Reagan.
Without the USAF controllers, the system would have collapsed.

35 posted on 05/19/2011 11:56:47 AM PDT by Yosemitest (It's simple, fight or die.)
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